Q&A with Chief of Staff Mohini Venkatesh

October 20, 2022
Mohini Venkatesh

Meet Mohini Venkatesh

The National Council is fortunate to have someone with Venkatesh’s rich history of achievement and meaningful contributions to the mental health and substance use field. Her 15-year tenure with the National Council gives her unparalleled insight and understanding of the complex challenges encountered by its members and broad view of the political and social conventions they function within.

She started at the National Council as an intern, while in graduate school, in 2007 during the Bush Administration. At that time, there were 12 employees; today, there are more than 200. She interned in public policy at a time when proposed changes to Medicaid would have drastically rolled back community-based services for people with serious mental illnesses. In coalition with others, the National Council blocked those changes.

As her responsibilities grew, she wrote policy briefs, worked as a coordinator for practice improvement projects and supported the Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) director. Ultimately, practice improvement became its own department, and she led that office and the business and strategy office.

What changes have driven the need for this new position?

The first six months will focus on setting up the systems to support our commitment to lead the mental health and substance use treatment field. Last year, we adopted a new name and launched a new dynamic brand that redefines our vision for the future that will shape the conversation around mental wellbeing and the solutions we embrace. Right now, we are restructuring our internal organization to better equip us as we embark on our journey toward that future that includes hiring executive leaders to round out our strategic leadership team, empower our governance and ensure that our internal processes are in place so our strategic leadership team can focus on making enterprise-wide decisions aligned with our strategy.

What are the immediate goals guiding this position?

This position provides a unique opportunity to further champion diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging as a core value. Like many organizations, the National Council is adopting a new remote-first policy, which invites unexplored opportunity to refine how staff will relate to each other to honor this value. Being remote-first is an invitation to bring fresh thinking, learn from other organizations and inculcate new practices that will build community among staff, partners and close friends of the National Council.

As the National Council evolves, it becomes more critical to connect every aspect, action and decision to ensure it stays true to its core values, vision, strategic plan and the over 3,100 mental health and substance use treatment organizations it serves. The chief of staff will work closely with President and CEO Chuck Ingoglia to ensure that departments build and connect with each other to support the National Council’s organizational health and members.

How does the chief of staff support the CEO?

The chief of staff ensures that internal matters receive the time and thought required to fully develop them before they are presented to the CEO for consideration. As CEO, his attention needs to be focused on driving the strategies of the organization. The chief of staff supports staff and the leadership team and facilitates robust conversations that will help realize the impact of potential decisions. This collaborative process will enhance teamwork to further the impact of the National Council’s work and mission.

Current focus is on working with the board and the strategic leadership team to ensure these foundations are in place to best serve membership. As special initiatives are developed and new external relationships are identified by the CEO, the chief of staff will drive clarity and realize his vision. As the catalyst for others to follow-through on the CEO’s vision, the nature of this new position is to do things in collaboration and to remain nimble.

What are some of the biggest challenges ahead for this position?

Uplifting the leadership team to a more strategic level and driving decision-making closer to where the work is being done are key aspects of the National Council’s redesign initiative. It will be up to the chief of staff to support and model this ideal and develop a rich and equitable understanding how the internal departments fit with each other and are layered and integrated with other departments to support their vision.